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The Earth's Corr: Authorities have a lot to answer for over tree destruction in bird nesting season

By Shauna Corr

Three years ago the NI Threatened Bee Report highlighted how “unless urgent action is taken we are likely to see the extinction of some of these species over the next 10 years”.

In 2021, the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan for 2021-2025 - and that includes the North - was published.

It outlined some 186 actions authorities, transport providers, businesses, schools, NI Water and NIEA need to take to protect our pollinators in light of their impending demise.

Read more: The Earth's Corr: 11 things politicians can do to improve our lives and climate

On top of that we know Northern Ireland, much like the rest of the world, has been advised by the IPCC to leave a third of our land to wildlife if we are to truly tackle the biodiversity crisis.

In this wee place, birds including starlings, curlews, corncrakes, roseate terns; the Irish damselfly and plants species the Irish Lady’s Tresses Orchid are already endangered.

While the Northern Ireland Priority Species list, which hasn’t been updated since 2007, includes everything from beetles to butterflies, crustaceans, fish, mammals, fungi, sponges and even moths.

There are 481 species on that list - up from 271 on the original.

And when the latest review is complete I dread to think how many creatures and plants will be on there.

But what, if anything tangible, is actually being done to protect the animals, plants and insects officially identified as needing our urgent help?

We still tip millions of gallons of sewage into our waterways polluting crustacean habitat.

We fail to meet ammonia and air pollution targets that are impacting plants, insects and birds alike.

And to see the amount of roadside verges, green areas, trees and hedgerows being decimated, burned, chopped down, strimmed and mowed to within an inch of their lives - even when the bird season ban is in force - you would think there’s no problem at all.

Don’t even get me started on the use of toxic glyphosate - which is still being sprayed in thousands of litres across our land.

Trees cut down after bird nesting season started in March (Shauna Corr)

Nature is collapsing around us while those in charge stand idly by - and even in some cases cause the harm.

More than one person has commented to me in recent weeks about how they’ve ‘never seen so many trees being cut down in their life’.

I have to agree.

Everywhere you turn mature trees are being being cut down at the roots and hedgerows ripped out, even when there’s nesting birds inside.

I’ve witnessed professional aboricultural contractors tear down and mince trees within bird nesting season with my own eyes.

People have sent in pictures of trees being felled by a Belfast petrol station, again in nesting season.

The removal of 180m of mature native Hawthorne trees at Lagan Lands East has sparked extreme anger this week - and that was on public land.

People are fed up with authorities paying lip service to the climate and biodiversity crises - and then acting as if neither are happening.

It’s high time our authorities had a long hard look at how what they say and do, as neither seem to match up.

Action, not more words, is what both we and nature need now.

Green heroes

Clare Bailey MLA at a youth rally in Belfast for World Climate Strike Day (Philip Magowan/PressEye)

The loss of Northern Ireland’s only two Green Party NI MLAs in last week’s election can only be described as a major blow for all things environmental.

Clare Bailey and Rachel Woods have done a great deal in their time at the Assembly.

I firmly believe that if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have as strong a Climate Bill as the one passed this year.

In just two short years both women have pushed through three pieces of legislation from the back benches.

If that’s not heroic work, I don’t know what is.

We all know politics is a cut-throat game and at times, it’s just not fair, when seats are lost through no fault of their own.

Then there’s Nichola Mallon - a hard working Minister if ever I saw one.

While I didn’t always support DfI’s decisions under her watch - Lough Neagh Sand extraction for one - but she did a lot of good.

But hats off for the move towards emissions free buses in Belfast and Derry.

I honestly worry what will happen next with her well intentioned plans for better cycle infrastructure and the promotion of active travel.

DfI is a bit of a poison chalice in a way.

And I’m sure her daily grind was filled with arguments against retaining the car’s title as king of transport.

I only hope whoever follows in her footsteps realises folks on the ground are over that now - and change must be delivered.

What happened No Mow May?


Authorities across Northern Ireland are supposed to have signed up to the All-Ireland Pollinator Programme.

That’s because insects like bees, wasps, butterflies, moths and flies are vital in the production of around 75% of the world’s crops says expert and plan author, Dr Una Fitzpatrick,

Despite this, I can’t help noticing the swatches of public land where wildflowers, which some call weeds, that are essential to supporting bees and other wildlife have been mowed to within an inch of their lives over the past week.

One simple part of the pollinator plan is ‘No Mow May’ - a message that appears to be lost on Roads Service and council workers.

Belfast City Council has been congratulated for letting the ‘Dandelion forest’ at Botanic grow for the birds and the bees.

But this week I’ve seen a lot of roadside verges and other greenspaces cleared of this growth.

Seriously, what are you lot at?

It’s not hard to follow No Mow May.

Rewilded areas, I’m told, should be left uncut until late September or early October to allow the seeds the germinate so new flowers can grow.

That’s once a year, folks.

Swap bottled water for a filter


The very nice folks at ZeroWater sent me a water filter to try out this week.

I’m not delighted that it’s plastic but it came in recyclable cardboard packaging and it’s made a huge difference to the water from my tap.

I know more and more people are concerned with what’s in the water they’re drinking.

But there’s a better way than stocking up on throwaway bottles of the stuff with the weekly shop.

My challenge to you this week is to give a water filter a go - it’ll last much longer.

Those behind the ZeroWater filter say it removes 99.6% of all dissolved solids - and you can taste the difference.

Just think of the huge amount of single use plastic you’ll be saving by making the swap!

Read more: No environmental impact assessments on tree felling along Lagan

Read more: Residents 'will work in shifts' as they protest against tree removal in Belfast

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Dive Deeper:
Belfast people 'despair' after council remove 200m of Hawthorne trees in bird nesting season
The incident on public land has been reported to police
Bee highways: how they work and why we need them
Hundreds of miles of bee highways are being created across the UK to halt the drastic decline in the insect’s…
How climate change is triggering a global collapse in insect numbers
A growing number of reports are suggesting insect numbers are in steep decline. Tim Newbold and Charlie Outhwaite explain why…
The Earth's Corr: 11 things NI politicians can do to improve our lives and the climate
If Stormont don’t do something and fast, all we’ll have left is an industrial waste land bereft of any life…
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Belfast to join All-Ireland Pollinator Plan
The plan aims to make public, private and farm land pollinator friendly
Scrapping of GO 111 could affect bird biodiversity in a big way
Indiscriminate construction in catchment areas of the twin lakes will hit food availability and nesting spaces for the birds
Get all your news in one place